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The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series

Easedale Nook — (Runs 44, 130, 154, 190, 210, 211 and 287)

page 230

Easedale Nook
(Runs 44, 130, 154, 190, 210, 211 and 287)

Since the 'seventies both the name Easedale Nook, and the station, have completely disappeared, and of all the stations in Canterbury, its history was the most difficult to trace.

Easedale Nook once included Grassdale, Brookdale, most of Mt. Torlesse, and a large piece of country on the plain round about Springfield. The homestead was on the site of the present Mt. Torlesse homestead, but the woolshed and shepherd's hut were at what is now called Ayresdale, about half a mile west of Springfield.

Run 44 was allotted to A. S. Jackson and Draper on 15th October, 1853, but Draper gave up his interest in it almost at once.

Run 130, of about seventeen thousand acres, lay in the angle of the Waimakariri and Kowai rivers, and came down to Annat. It also crossed the south branch of the Kowai and took in the lower part of the forks. It was taken up by Jackson and le Fleming on 15th October, 1851. They named the station Easedale Nook and had 1650 sheep there in 1854. On 27th August. 1855, they took up Run 154 (the Grassdale country) in William le Fleming's name.

At the end of 1855 Jackson and le Fleming sold the station to Perceval Brothers, but apparently without the cattle which they sold in November, 1856. They averaged about seven guineas a head, calves under a month old given in.

The firm of Jackson and le Fleming consisted of Alexander Sherwood Jackson (known as 'Russian' Jackson) and Sir Michael le Fleming and his brother William, grandfather and great-uncle of the present baronet of that name. I don't know anything about Jackson except that he was the father of a late vicar of Papanui and that he had a fifty-acre farm at Opawa The house is now known as the Oaks.

By 1857 people had begun to realise that high country was worth stocking, and in May the Percevals took page 231up Run 190, of five thousand acres adjoining Run 130. In September, 1857, they took up Runs 210 (part of Mt. Torlesse) and 211 (part of Brookdale). In 1858 they had increased their flock to 3300 sheep, and in 1859 they took up Run 287, the rest of the Brookdale country.

In 1860 the Percevals sold Easedale Nook to Longden and Deane, who divided the station in two. Longden, who seems to have had sheep running on terms with the Percevals since 1858, took the homestead and the Mt. Torlesse country and called the station Mt. Torlesse, while Deane took Grassdale, Brookdale, and the country on the Waimakariri with the woolshed and shepherd's hut, which he continued to call Easedale Nook.

I have not been able to find the complete records of the Easedale Nook pasturage licenses, but Deane seems to have sold the Grassdale country very soon after he got it; at least it stands in the name of Edward Corker Minchin in 1864.

Deane sold the Brookdale country to Hopkins and Anson in March, 1872, who started a new station there. I do not know when Deane sold the homestead and the country round Springfield, but it was about the same time. There would be very little leasehold left there in 1872. I do not know who bought it, but in the 'eighties it was all freehold and belonged to William Atkinson, and its name had been changed to Ayres-dale. It now belongs to J. Millikin.

The Percevals were Augustus George [1829-1896], Charles John [1831-1894], and Spencer Arthur [1832-1910], who came to Canterbury soon after the First Four Ships. They took up several stations in the 'fifties, but they all came to grief in the end. Augustus went Home in 1863 and seems to have led a vagrant kind of life. Charles joined Baines in the Waitaki mail contract and used to drive passengers as far as Ashburton in a two-wheeled cart with a hood over it. From Ashburton Baines carried the mails on a horse. Charles Perceval finished his New Zealand career driv-ing the 'bus to Sumner, but his son eventually became page 232Earl of Egmont. In 1929 Augustus's son contested the title.

Deane was Lieutenant Robert Deane, R.N. He lived at the Heathcote and only visited his station from time to time. He was very good to the West Coast drovers and allowed them to turn their spare horses out on his run. His manager was Robert Ford Thomas, known as 'Little' Thomas or 'Old' Thomas to distinguish him from 'Young' Thomas of Benmore. He was a fat little man with a round face and was rather eccentric. On the station he always, wore a smock frock and off it was never seen without an overcoat. He always rode a mule which he called Abraham Noo-lan, and would never accept hospitality from anyone. T. E. Upton writes: …I was coming from Ben-more to Springfield, and at the Kowai I found Thomas and three shepherds with a hurdle yard jamming the sheep through a big hole to wash them. He had one man about three chains up the river with a bag sprinkling soda, as Thomas said, to soften the water a bit.'

After he left Easedale Nook he bought a small piece of land near Oxford, built a whare on it and lived there till he died. He always stuck to his smock frock.